I mentioned several weeks ago the verse, John 8:32. It is, again, “you shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free!” To begin to discuss truth to hold individuals accountable seems to be counterintuitive to be set free! So, what in the world am I smoking? How could I say that FREEDOM and ACCOUNTABILITY go together and are held together by the absolute standard we’ve been discussing?
When there is a standard of truth, it is a beacon of light and a marker for all to see. Whether they do or not reflects their own desire to see or acknowledge this impartial standard. Truth doesn’t bend to your will or find a way to make you happy. It just IS. It reflects the Almighty God Who told Moses, “I AM.” When that happens, and we acknowledge this universal plumb line, we know what we must work with. If we don’t adhere to the truth, we get off track and things start to go awry.
If we acknowledge the truth, then we know what we must work with. We know where we stand in relation to God’s truth, and if we’re honest with ourselves, we know what is necessary to adhere to the truth. I’ll talk about it being God’s truth in a bit, or in subsequent posts. When we know what we’re supposed to do, we experience the responsibility of following the truth. We are accountable because we recognize the truth. The truth sets us free because we have an awareness that our actions and behaviors have an effect, whether we want to acknowledge that or not. When we know our effects or at least our intents are pure and noble, then we have freedom knowing that our actions and behaviors will be for good of humanity and go along with God’s intentions for us.
The irony of permissiveness is that besides being potentially incredibly destructive, when we engage in destructive acts, we unknowingly erode our character, and our souls suffer. God’s love IS unconditional, but it does have limits. You can’t just do what you want. We know from Christ’s own words that He directs us back to the law and the prophets, as shared in the Old Testament. Loving God and loving others come with the stipulation that one needs to do so in a way that he or she would direct this same behavior back to oneself if acting in that manner. Would you cut yourself down? Would you cancel people? Would you harm yourself willingly? Would you maim yourself? Then why would you do it to others?
When we see actions in this way, measured against the plumb line of truth, we know that constraints produce good results, which leads to freedom.
So, maybe the distinction is in the definition of “freedom!” Maybe the issue we have in our society is in the use and definition we give our words. Maybe the conventional humanist use of the word “freedom” needs to be replaced with “permissiveness.” When we make this switch, we see that the Gospel now can come through. Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is permissiveness? NO! We know the answer is “no!” So, “freedom” must not relate to our actions. We’re not FREE to act in any way we see fit. There are bounds to our actions, limited to the Ten Commandments, or Jesus’s summation of them as we see in Matthew 22:34-40, and Mark 12:28-34.
Often what we do see in secular society which is problematic is the misuse of words, which can lead to fundamental confusion and perversion of the Gospel, which, to me, is the fundamental perversion of the truth. If you can misuse words, or twist their meanings slightly, you can fundamentally change the arc of the Gospel in the minds of the people and wreak great havoc on the cause of Christ.
“Freedom” from Noah Webster’s 1828 dictionary is referred to as “exemption of power or control from another,” which relates to what we might call autonomy, or personal sovereignty. It also refers to “franchise,” where an individual is exempted from a burden or duty to which others are subjected. This could be our fate had there been no God to save us from ourselves. That exemption though does not allow us to act against the character of God if the Holy Spirit is in us. We have the autonomy to choose to act in a certain way that is consistent with God’s character.
If we don’t, is Christ really in us? (1 John 4:8) TRUTH, then, demonstrates the power of God at work in us. We are free but directed by the Spirit. “It is for FREEDOM that Christ has set us free.” With God at work in us to will and to act according to His good purpose (Philippians 2:13), we act consistent with His spirit, and thus enjoy freedom knowing that we will not be subjected to that which we COULD be if we stepped outside His gracious and glorious purposes and His ways. The Holy Spirit is our guide, keeping us along the narrow way that leads to life eternal, and ultimate freedom, and as we practice letting God guide us (Psalm 119:105), we will more and more seek more of Him and desire less of our own reckless thinking and actions and more of Him (John 3:30).
As we allow Him to guide us more and more each day, we experience freedom we once never knew imaginable, because, as Noah Webster said in his 1828 dictionary definition, we experience “immunity” from what we could experience, knowing that God provides us a hedgerow to follow when we love God and love others as He teaches, to sum up the Law and the Prophets (Matthew 22:40, referencing the Ten Commandments).